Have Shildon finally found a place in football history?

9:46am Tuesday 13th October 2009

SINCE post-war successes have been pretty few, we have again been trying – and still in vain – to establish Shildon’s claim to the football record books.

Saturday’s column, it may be recalled, noted that the travel-sick club’s game at Congleton on November 14 would be their seventeeth successive away tie in the FA Vase – at odds of 131,972-1.

The story was coincidentally taken up in the Railwaymen’s programme on Saturday, though editor Bob Wake is anxious to point out that the odds on it happening again are still precisely 50-50.

“It’s on this mistaken idea of probability that casinos rake in so much cash,” he adds, sagaciously.

But is it a record, or simply an unlucky streak the length of Shildon shopping street?

Even David Barber, the FA’s esteemed and damn-near omniscient historian, is unable to help – not even after consulting his wellthumbed copy of “Football Facts Every Schoolboy Knows.”

By that medium, however, he is able to point out that unlucky Arsenal reached the FA Cup finals of 1971 and 1972 without ever being drawn at home, eight games.

Away the lads? “I’ll be taking a particular interest in Shildon’s draws from now on,” says David.

CONGLETON’S in Cheshire, the team unbeaten in the North West Counties League, the place known as Beartown from the days when everywhere round there had a resident bear, Sadly, Congleton’s upped and died a few days before Wakes Week, obliging the elders to sell the town bible in order to buy a replacement. Since every doggerel has its day, they even composed a verse: The Wakes coming up and the bear he took ill We tried him with potions, with brandy and pill He dies in his sleep on the eve of the Wakes The cause, it was said, was strong ale and sweet cakes.

When the column was there, Billingham Synthonia’s visit in 2004, the greater threat to the digestion may have been the tins of pears and peaches on display in the trophy cabinet.

They’d been part of a food hamper won by a director, a couple of years previously, at an away match. It was only when checking his trophy that he discovered the sell-by date was 1985.

DAVID Barber watched his first football match on November 5, 1960, Crystal Palace’s 6-2 FA Cup win over Hitchin. Exactly 45 years later he clocked up his 5,000th, and still counting.

“I just love the whole experience,” he says. “I used to hate school. The great focus of the week was the match on a Saturday.”

His most memorable may have been when Uruguay asked for a warm-up friendly in 1990, before a match with England. The season was over, the goal posts moved.

David finally fixed a game with Wandsworth police station.

“At first it was difficult to get them to take it seriously.

Imagine ringing up and asking if they’d like to play Uruguay.”

The match was at Roehampton, the crowd 10.

Carlos Agulera hit a hattrick as Uruguay stumbled to a 3-1 win. They beat England a few days later.

These days, David narrates his adventures on an FA blog called Barber’s Chair. With memories of earlier days, it’s sub-titled “Something from the weekend.”

WRITER and former Somerset opening batsman Peter Roebuck has a piece on the cricinfo website about New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori. Halfway through, he appears to become disorientated.

“Captaining the Darlington fourth XI is a tricky enough assignment. Doubtless the gentleman occupying that position is surrounded by highly-strung pace bowlers, butterfingered fieldsmen, hot-headed batsmen and fellows persuaded that most defeats are down to dubious tactics.” Sounds familiar, but Darlington don’t have a fourth XI, do they?

NEWCASTLE United fans will doubtless be pleased to hear that former director of football Dennis Wise has reportedly got himself another job – according to the Non League Paper, he has a “community development” role with Chalfont St Peter.

Saint who? They play in the Spartan South Midland League, reached the FA Vase semi-final last season and have a ground which, according to the club website, is “a bit like stepping out of a time machine.”

Wise is apparently unperturbed. “I’m delighted to be part of this project,” he said.

THE Times, meanwhile, carries an interview with Joey Barton – another about whom the St James’ Park faithful may have mixed feelings. He insists that he hasn’t had a drink for two years, since the infamous 5.30am brawl in Liverpool, and talks of sharing a cell with someone called Chopper.

Chopper had no teeth, smoked all the time and acted “like a caveman.” Not Chopper Harris, then.

Barton reckons to have mended fences with Alan Shearer, however, after both had a horse out in the same race at Redcar. “I was a little bit unsure how it would be, but Alan made a beeline for me and we shook hands. He handled it like men should. He’s gone up in my estimation.”

Shearer’s horse won.

Barton’s was third.

ON the fence outside Benfield sports college in Newcastle, I spot a large banner for the Newcastle Kettlebell Club – an advanced form of weight training, it transpires. The website carries a disclaimer, however: “Benfield gym staff are not part of Newcastle Kettleball Club and should not in any way be associated with our exemplary standards.”

Kettlebell calling the pot?

Whatever can it means?

ULTRA-ATHLETE Sharon Gayter has been putting pen to paper – and this one really could run and run.

Though autobiographical, it’s really an account of what compels the 45-yearold asthmatic from Guisborough incessantly to set herself greater challenges.

“I’ve pondered long and hard because my private life has long been just that, but really it’s this theme which probably makes the book,”

she says.

It ends with her momentous Commonwealth championship gold in last month’s 24-hour race in Keswick. I’ve read the first couple of chapters and it’s going to be absolutely eyeopening.

Subject to what Sharon calls “tweaking”, the book should be out by Christmas.

TO coincide with his biography, a major exhibition on the life and times of the legendary Bob Hardisty – widely reckoned the best amateur footballer of all time – is planned at Bishop Auckland town hall next autumn.

“It’ll be the main focus of out year,” says Durham Amateur Football Trust secretary Dick Longstaff.

“Bob’s son and daughter have been very supportive and are hoping to attend.”

DAFT, as happily they like to be known, have also acquired a collection of Sports Despatches – the dear old Pink – from 1946 to the 1970s, donated by long serving former councillor Chris Foote Wood.

Sam Smith, having recently completed a masters degree in museum studies, is also joining DAFT at its Shildon base as a parttime office worker.

Better qualified yet, he supports the mighty Arsenal.

NOEL WHELAN, new Darlington manager Steve Staunton’s first signing, had appeared in the Backtrack column earlier this year.

That was back in January when the former £2m man, 35 later this year, had signed for Harrogate Town in the Conference North. Despite local newspaper claims of a “major coup”, Town manager Neil Aspin was cautious.

“He can’t come into the reckoning,” said Aspin. “For Noel to be a footballer again he knows he needs to lose a lot of weight. I’d love to have him at the club, but that’s going to be next season.”

Sure enough, Whelan never made an appearance, hadn’t until Saturday played senior football since 2006 and may more recently be better recalled for an appearance with Janice Battersby on Celebrity MasterChef in which he sliced his finger instead of a chorizo sausage.

In an interview on Saturday he described himself as “a month away from being fully fit.”

In the Independent on Sunday he was described as “portly.” He came off, pictured above, injured after 34 minutes.

And finally

THE man who played against North Shields in the 1969 FA Amateur Cup final and who remains a Football league manager is Dario Gradi – at 68 just returned to the boss’s seat at Crewe Alexandra.

David Whitfield didn’t just know the answer, he was at the final – which enables him also to recall that North Shields’ Brian Joicey had a long subsequent career with Coventry City, Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley.

Brian Shaw in Shildon today invites readers to suggest why Norberto, Alonso, a midfielder, wore No. 1 for Argentina in the 1978 World Cup.

One among many, the column returns on Saturday.


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